A New York-based private equity firm will purchase a Portland groundfish supply company that manages five of the largest fishing vessels operating in Maine.
Blue Harvest Fisheries, a U.S. scallop and whitefish supplier owned by equity firm Bregal Partners, will purchase Atlantic Trawlers Fishing, Undercurrent News reported.
Bregal Partners is a private investment firm with $600 million of committed capital funded by a six-generation German-Dutch family. Its board of directors includes the CEO of Bumble Bee Foods, and the chief investment and strategy officer of the Central Bering Sea Fisherman’s Association, who is also on the board of American Seafoods.
Atlantic Trawlers Fishing, owned by James Odlin, operates from the Portland Fish Pier and includes the fishing vessels Nobska, Morue, Harmony, Teresa Marie III and Teresa Marie IV.
In 2012, the fishing vessel Harmony, captained by David Haggerty of Harpswell, was featured on the History Channel’s series “Nor’Easter Men.”
Blue Harvest Fisheries already owns scallop trawlers and a processing plant in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The company will now manage boats fishing for groundfish including cod, haddock, pollock and redfish.
After purchasing the scallop fishing firm Peabody Corp. and its eight vessels in 2015, Bregal Partners formed Blue Harvest Fisheries and bought Harbor Blue Seafood and its seven scallop trawlers in March 2016. Also that year, Blue Harvest acquired New Bedford-based Hygrade Ocean Products Inc. and High Liner Foods’ scallop business and processing facility. Blue Harvest closed the Hygrade Ocean Products plant after moving its entire scallop and finfish production into a separate factory, according to Undercurrent News.
Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, said Tuesday that while Mainers may be concerned when a large investment company buys up a business, they would do well to recognize what those investment companies have found.
“While it’s frightening for a lot of us who work in the industry, these are people who are smart and have money and see opportunity here,” Martens said. “It’s something [Maine people] should not ignore. This is a big company saying, ‘We believe there is value here and in the future for groundfish.’ Instead of being worried about businesses being bought, we should be thinking about how we can be protecting and preserving and investing in our own infrastructures in Maine. I don’t know that we always see the opportunity in front of us … [but] someone in New York saw it.”
Neither Odlin of Atlantic Trawlers nor any senior executives with Blue Harvest or Bregal Partners returned phone calls and emails Tuesday.
Correction: An earlier version of this report in the headline and in one sentence incorrectly described the vessels sold as scallop trawlers. They are used for groundfishing.